Sandwich Superintendent of Schools C. Richard Canfield feels the pain of student athletes at Sandwich High School. A former athletic trainer himself, Dr. Canfield knows all too well the importance of a qualified trainer to the well-being of all students participating in sports at the high school.
Dr. Canfield, in fact, nearly made athletics his career. In addition to working as an athletic trainer while studying to be a physical therapist as an undergraduate at Springfield College in Springfield, he also coached soccer and gymnastics at Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, and was voted Coach of the Year for his work with the gymnastics team.
Even though he has only recently come to Sandwich to lead the school district, he said the need to fill the trainer’s post at the high school—a post that has stood vacant for one year—has quickly risen to the top of his priority list.
“As superintendent of schools it is my responsibility to keep every student as safe as possible,” Dr. Canfield said. Having a trainer on the sidelines is a big part of that responsibility, he said.
An athletic trainer is a trained medical professional who attends school sporting events, including games and practices, and tends to injured players on either team. Most high schools have one on staff, and trainers are absolutely required for football and hockey games.
Dr. Canfield went so far as to say that: “If you can’t afford to provide the best in safety equipment and the safest conditions to conduct your program, then you really can’t afford to be running the program.”
The search for an athletic trainer has become a contentious issue within the town this past year, ignited by the resignation a year ago of long-time trainer Frank E. Green.
Mr. Green had requested, in his capacity as athletic trainer, that he be given a key to Sandwich High School, and thereby unfettered access to the school. At that time, new security protocols had been put in place, limiting keys to a small number of employees, including custodians. Mr. Green was not among those selected to receive a key and eventually resigned. That left the town without a certified athletic trainer for the 2011 spring sports season, and so far for the fall season, as well. The issue of providing the athletic trainer with a key, and full-time access to the school building, is one Dr. Canfield is willing to revisit.
“If we have 600 students involved in our athletic program, and we have a gentleman or a woman who comes through the door who is a licensed, trained trainer, and I’m going to say to that person, ‘I’m looking to you to handle the physical well-being and care of our athletes,’ that is a huge amount of trust. Frankly it’s a larger piece of trust than protecting the brick and mortar of Sandwich High School.”
The importance of having a trainer on the sidelines was made clear earlier this month when a wide receiver on the high school football team took a hard hit during a game in Plymouth, and came off the field complaining he felt woozy. The first assistant coach he spoke to told him to rest on the bench. A second assistant coach called over Plymouth’s trainer, who knew immediately the boy needed medical attention.
The player later underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. The boy is now home and recovering well from his injury.
Having an athletic trainer on the sidelines will not prevent injuries, but such a qualified medical individual is necessary to correctly diagnose the severity of an injury, according to Dr. Canfield. Dr. Canfield also said that it is equally imperative for coaches and athletes to recognize and respond to all types of injuries.
“All high schools must have a very systematic approach that includes meeting with your coaches to be sure that they not only know how to run a good offense and defense, but more importantly, they know how to deal and respond to injuries that are inevitable,” he said.
There are parents with student-athletes at Sandwich High School who believe the town has been dragging its feet in its search for a new athletic trainer. A prevailing theory is that the town does not have sufficient money to bring in a new trainer. Dr. Canfield said the problem is finding the right person, someone properly licensed and trained and experienced working with high school and college teams. It is not a money issue.
“I do have funds, thankfully,” he said, “I can find the money to do it.”
Asked how much the district is offering for the position, Dr. Canfield would not give an exact dollar figure, and only said the offer will be “regionally competitive and negotiable.” He went on to say that he takes very seriously his fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Sandwich to spend their money wisely and well, so the offer will reflect what is regionally appropriate.
According to Dr. Canfield, the school department is advertising the athletic trainer position with the National Athletic Trainer’s Association and its Massachusetts division. They also plan to post an ad at School Spring, a job search website for people looking for school jobs. Dr. Canfield said Sandwich High School Principal Ellin S. Booras and SHS Athletic Director Martin J. Cosgrove will put together a pool of people from the Sandwich schools who will interview potential candidates. They, in turn, will present Dr. Canfield with a list of two to three candidates whom he will ultimately interview. Those initial interviews are currently being set up.
Mr. Cosgrove echoed Dr. Canfield’s sentiment that it is important to find a trainer who fits well into the Sandwich sports program, someone who is properly licensed and trained, and whose schedule can meet the time demands of afternoon practices and games, as well as evening and sometimes weekend games.
Until the trainer’s post is filled, the school has been and will continue to use temporary trainers hired through Precision Athletic Training out of Allston for home games involving collision sports, such as football, hockey and lacrosse.
But Mr. Cosgrove said this temporary fix is not ideal. He said it is in the best interest of the students to have consistency rather than a different trainer, week to week.
“It’s important,” said Mr. Cosgrove, “because the trainer gets to know the kids, the kids become more willing to open up to the trainer about how they’re feeling on a given day, and the trainer can then talk to the coach on behalf of the student.”
Asked if there is a time line or deadline for filling the athletic trainer position, Dr. Canfield quickly replied,
“If I could do it today, it would be done. Anytime that there’s an injury and it’s a severe injury, you want to be sure that you have the right people in place to respond well. To do otherwise, to me, is inappropriate and frankly less than what we would be proud of in Sandwich.”